The organizers of China's so-called "Jasmine rallies" have condemned the government for its tough reaction at the weekend to anonymous calls for weekly nationwide protests.
Police officers urged passersby and reporters around Beijing's Wangfujing shopping district to leave the area on Sunday
They call themselves the Chinese Jasmine Revolution Organizers and are apparently behind the call for non-confrontational "strolling protests" in specific areas of cities across China.
They have been using foreign social networking websites – currently blocked in the People’s Republic – to rally people to their cause. And despite a massive security clampdown and dozens of arrests, they are determined to go on with their struggle.
Hundreds of police were deployed all over China at the weekend to prevent protests
In a statement posted on several online social networking sites on Monday, the anonymous protesters said they had support in dozens of cities and announced a new day of action on March 6.
On Sunday, hundreds of police and dogs were deployed in many Chinese cities to prevent protesters from gathering. Around Beijing's Wangfujing shopping area, which had been designated as a site of "strolling protest," the police were rough with passersby who refused to move on and foreign journalists alike.
Anyone who refused to budge was taken away by security officers. Several foreign journalists in the area were also detained.
"You have to get into the van," one policeman told the journalists. "We will take you to the management office. If you got the permission you will be allowed to report in this area. Okay?"
The police arrested dozens of people who refused to move away from designated areas of "strolling protest"
Detained and interrogated for hours
Christine Adelhardt, a correspondent for German public television, later said she, her cameraman and sound technician, had all been detained in a building for four hours.
"We were interrogated over and over again by different officials. We were told we didn’t have permission to shoot in this street and we had violated the law. Then they wanted to see our material. When we refused, they tried to take it from us, but we also refused. In the end, we were allowed to go after apologizing."
Johannes Hano from Germany’s ZDF channel was detained for six hours. "They're scared that something similar to what is happening in North Africa and the Arab world could happen here," he later explained.
"The massive police deployment says three things – they are extremely nervous, they want to nip all forms of opposition and protest in the bud, and the fact that they detained us and our colleagues shows that they want to intimidate the international media."
PM admits there is reason for concern
Pan Jiawei, the executive secretary of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in Hong Kong, had a similar view of the situation in Hong Kong, where protests were also suppressed at the weekend.
Concerned about what is happening in the Arab world, Beijing wants to nip all protest in the bud
"The Hong Kong government was much too nervous," he said. "What reason did the police have to stop citizens going to the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong to demonstrate? We want the Hong Kong government to give us an explanation: Why were there so many policemen yesterday interfering with our civil rights to demonstrate?"
In Beijing, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao even admitted that the government had reason to be worried saying "if price rises become linked to the problems of graft and corruption, that will be enough to spark public discontent, and even create serious social problems."
He also promised the government would put up a stronger fight against inflation and said China's economy would grow more slowly and more sustainably so as to keep prices under control. But this is not a satisfactory response for the anonymous leaders of China's Jasmine rallies.
Author: Anne Thomas
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein